Quantifying mangrove canopy regrowth and recovery after Hurricane Irma with large-scale repeat airborne lidar in the Florida Everglades Article

Xiong, L, Lagomasino, D, Charles, SP et al. (2022). Quantifying mangrove canopy regrowth and recovery after Hurricane Irma with large-scale repeat airborne lidar in the Florida Everglades . INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF APPLIED EARTH OBSERVATION AND GEOINFORMATION, 114 10.1016/j.jag.2022.103031

cited authors

  • Xiong, L; Lagomasino, D; Charles, SP; Castañeda-Moya, E; Cook, BD; Redwine, J; Fatoyinbo, L


  • Hurricane Irma caused significant damages to mangrove forested wetlands in south Florida, including defoliation, tree snapping, and uprooting. Previous studies have used optical satellite imagery to estimate large-scale forest disturbance and resilience patterns. However, satellite images alone cannot provide measurements of vertical mangrove structure. In this study, we used dense point cloud data collected by NASA Goddard's LiDAR, Hyperspectral, and Thermal (G-LiHT) airborne imager before (March 2017) and after (December 2017 and March 2020) Hurricane Irma to quantify the recovery, or lack thereof, of the three-dimensional (3D) mangrove forest structure. Recent resilience and vulnerability models developed from Landsat time series following the storm were used to group the lidar data into distinct disturbance-recovery classes. We then analyzed lidar-based forest canopy within each of the recovery classes to test a suite of forest structural characteristics. Our results indicate that 77.0 % of the survey area experienced canopy height loss three months after Hurricane Irma, whereby the majority of canopy height loss occurred in areas with the tallest mangrove forests (i.e., 15–25 m tall). Our analysis shows that the mangrove canopy height in South Florida increased by an average 0.26 m from December 2017 to March 2020, with most of the forest (84.7 % of the survey area) experiencing canopy height regrowth. However, only 38.1 % of the survey area has recovered to pre-storm canopy height. The distribution of canopy height was significantly altered by Hurricane Irma in the low and intermediate resilience classes, but were not significantly different 2.5 years later. Indeed, in areas of low resilience, little to no vertical change has occurred suggesting the absence of canopy regrowth and natural regeneration. Conversely, mangroves in high resilience class, which are dominated by shorter canopies (<5 m), were not heavily damaged by the storm and have maintained the same structural attributes as those before Hurricane Irma. Our findings highlight that hurricane disturbances significantly alter mangrove forest canopy structure, but recovery of vertical structure varies by resilience classes, species composition, and canopy height.

publication date

  • November 1, 2022

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)


  • 114